Just days after John F. Kennedy's funeral in 1963 -- which occurred three days after he was assassinated -- Gallup interviewers fanned out across the United States to gauge public reaction. One of the key questions was whether the suspected killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, had acted alone; Americans' hunch was that he hadn't. The slight majority thought "some group or element was also responsible," while just 29% thought Oswald acted on his own and 19% were unsure.
|Assassin acted on his own||29|
|Some group or element also responsible||52|
As George Gallup wrote in the Dec. 6, 1963, story on this finding, "The need for such a commission as President Johnson has now set up to investigate the assassination of John F. Kennedy is revealed by widespread fears that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act on his own."
Few details are available about the poll other than what is mentioned in the original news release. However, it appears that the "lone gunman" question was followed by a probe asking respondents who they thought was involved.
Gallup reported that, "Of those who think the plot may be deeper than has yet to come to light, views vary all the way from the belief that the assassination was part of a major conspiracy to persons who think the assassin was hired by another person to carry out his ends." At the same time, Gallup said, "Only about one person in a hundred thinks Russia, Cuba, or 'the communists' may have been involved in the assassination. Almost no one mentions the 'extreme right,' or segregationists, as responsible."
According to Gallup, survey respondents also raised questions about the role Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby, played, and referenced reports that Oswald "displayed a wealth not in keeping with his meager salary."
In the ensuing years, Gallup has continued to ask Americans whether they ascribe to the "lone gunman" theory or the conspiracy theory, and has consistently found the majority believing it was a conspiracy.
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Read more about Gallup polling on the Kennedy assassination here.
The original Gallup news release is available here.
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